Fighting for Life

Rebecya has taken an oath; never to love again, and to find her true home. But as her life is put at risk, and her courage is tested to the extremes, she finds herself testing her oath too. Where will she find her true home before it is too late? Read it to find out! :) And please comment what you think, cheers!

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4. Explosions

The sky has darkened enough that I know the sun has set by the time I find a suitable place to make a shelter. I choose my site carefully, making sure it’s not going to flood if it rains, that there are lots of materials for building with, and checking there are plenty of escape options. Then I set about building a shelter.

The area I chose has lots of young saplings in it, strong but flexible. I take my axe out and cut one down; its’ sappy scent filling the air. I now have an almost-circle of saplings, with about a metre in the space between them. I start bending the saplings over, tying them with some strong twine I found in the shed at home. I make the roof slightly curved; strong but flat enough to make it waterproof with more branches. Then I crawl inside and chop off the branches that hang inwards, making a nice cosy room inside. I thin some of the leaves off to make it easier for smoke to disperse, and then take the branches I removed and put them on top of the roof. I take armfuls of dead leaves from the ground and pile that up on top too. I then chop the sapling I cut down up too, and pile some of the less straight branches on the roof too; the straight ones I keep to make arrows. Then I bank more dead leaves against the sides, keeping it wind proof. I put more arm loads of leaves inside the shelter too, to make a soft mattress to sleep on. Once I’m satisfies with my efforts, I crawl out and, taking the twine and a water pouch, head for the stream I spotted while I was searching for a place to build my shelter. On my way, I set three twitch-up snares, hoping to catch some food for breakfast. Then I fill my water pouch and go back to my temporary home.

I am about to take a big swig of water when I remember what happened when I went swimming in the water in the valley. I decide to use that water for washing meat, and take a drink from my water from home instead. I eat a rabbit chop, some greens and a couple of sweet berries from the woods. When I have swallowed the last mouthful, I suddenly realise how tired I am. I dig my blanket out of the bag, wrap myself up like I'm in a sleeping bag, and promptly fall asleep.

 

 When I wake, the light is streaming in through the branches from the south-west, meaning I have slept around eighteen hours. I crawl out my shelter, yawning and picking sleep from my eyes. Groggily, I stumble over to the snares I set last night. One snare has a dead grouse in it, the other the remains of one. In the last snare, a squirrel is struggling to escape the twine wrapped around its chest. I watch it suffer for a while; and then grasp it in my hands. I pause; I don’t really need the meat, I brought enough from home. But I want to kill it. Without thinking, I snap its neck. It kicks twice and then goes limp. I am tempted to throw it away, I don’t even really like squirrel meat. But I need to repair my clothes, and I can always just make a stew of it… I decide to keep it, and untie the string from the tree. I head to the stream, take my knife out and start to prepare the grouse and squirrel.

I am careful with skinning the squirrel, I don’t want to patch my clothes with a bit of fur with holes in it. I put the bones from both animals in a pile, but keep the two types of meat separate. Then I gather everything up and walk back to my shelter, trying to hold on to the feathers from the grouse that keep trying to blow away.

 

When I get back, I put the two meats up in my food pouch, a bit of cloth between them. I stuff the feathers and bones in a small bag, and resolve to do something with them later. I drag everything in to my shelter, and eat a smoked fillet of salmon, washing it down with water from home. I lie back on my mattress of leaves, and without meaning to, fall asleep again.

 

When I awake, I feel fresh and energetic. I gobble down a breakfast of more salmon, eating one of the sweet berries to add some flavour. Then I shoulder my bow, quiver and little bag of supplies, and set off to explore.

 

***

 

 

I spend the next few days exploring; the valley I'm staying in, the flat scree, the foot hills of the mountain above it, and the ridge to the left of it.

I sleep a lot more than I usually do here; perhaps because I'm walking all day, maybe because I feel safer. Whatever the reason, I fall asleep at sunset and wake just after sunrise, feeling full of energy.

I make the bones I get from the animals I shoot into more arrows, use the fur to patch the many holes in my clothing. I make new food and water pouches, repair my quiver. I do whatever I want, with no one telling me to do this and that. It’s my own little haven.

 

But then one day, about a week after leaving, I suddenly want to go home. Well, I don’t want to, but I feel like I should. So I pack my things up, untie the saplings making my shelter, and set off.

 

I don’t head towards where I climbed up; I know I would never be able to climb down that cliff face.  So instead I go to the side of the semi-circle that I've never been to before, to my left, right of where I climbed up. It only takes about an hour to get there. To get to the waterfall.

 

I have read about it, how people used to jump down this waterfall and survive. It can’t be that hard, you just need to get in to a dive position before you hit the water. Not at all tricky.

At least, that’s what I tell myself when I am standing at the top of the 70 foot waterfall. I put my things in a (hopefully) waterproof bag that I sealed shut with pine pitch. I slide the awkwardly shaped bag of my shoulders, trying to not break my bow.

 

There is a rope, green with lichen, tied to a wooden post at this end, a tree at the other, stretching out from the cliff edge, sloping downwards until it gets to the valley floor below. I take the piece of wood I fashioned specifically for this job out, and set it on the rope. Then I slide it up and down a little way, checking I smoothed the bit that goes on the rope enough. When I am satisfied it won’t wear through the rope, I tie my bag on to it. The rope sags slightly, but doesn’t snap. I take a deep breath and push my bag off down the rope. I watch as it gains speed, sliding away until I can’t really see it anymore. Then, hoping it made it safely, I move closer to the waterfall.

 

There is a wooden sign just beside the river leading to the waterfall, with faded black writing on it. I can make out next to nothing, and I hope it doesn’t have a life or death warning on it.

Not at all tricky I tell myself, and gather my courage. Then I take a step back, run forward and launch myself of the edge of the cliff.

 

I know I am moving quickly, but time seems to slow down, until I feel like I could float here for ever. The wind tugs at my hair, streaming out behind me. The force of the air pushing against me drags my arms up above my head, like I am waving at some distant person. My eyes water, but I can’t bring my hand down to wipe them. I open my mouth, and scream. Not out of terror, but out of sheer joy. The spray from the waterfall soaks me, but I don’t care. I can’t move, but I feel weightless. I feel free.  I feel alive.

All too soon, I can see the pool at the bottom rushing up to meet me, so I manage to turn and get into a dive position. It doesn’t sound hard, but it actually is. The wind pushes against you, fighting back. But I manage, and then I'm slicing through the water. I was moving so fast that I go deep into the pool, but eventually I slow, and turn and kick upwards.

My head breaks the surface and I gasp, breathing in deeply. As I look up the waterfall that I just jumped off, the cry of triumph comes unbidden. I draw an arm out the water and punch the air, adrenaline still flowing through my veins.

I float on my back for a moment, just gazing at the height I just fell. Then I turn and swim for the shore.

 

By the time I reach the edge of the pool, I'm freezing cold, but it was worth it. As I clamber out the pool, the air seems colder than the water; it seems to burn my skin. I quickly check in case anymore or that horrible rash has come up, but I don’t spot any. I must have gotten used enough to the rhodium for it not to affect me.

 

With shaking fingers, I break the seal on the bag and draw out the spare change of clothes I packed. I quickly change, and feel warmer at once. Then I shoulder my bag, take one last look at the waterfall, and set off home.

 

***

 

I'm not too worried about being quick to get home; I take my time walking back. But when I get home, I wished I’d hurried.

 

Mother stands in the yard, holding a basket of veg from our garden. I can see the mud on her hands from digging them up, the recently dug patches on the veggie patch. I can also see two boys, about sixteen, standing with their backs to me. Mother hands them the basket, and they accept it, saying something I don’t quite catch. Mother nods, as if in agreement, and says something. They nod, and make to leave. They start walking towards me, not noticing me standing in the shadows. Suddenly, they stop, and the taller one shouts something over his shoulders, “If she comes back, the agreement’s off.” My mother nods curtly, and says,

“Don’t worry, she’s not coming back.” All of a sudden, everything becomes clear, and as the boys walk past, I step out from the shadows, and say

“Who’s not coming back?”

 

The boys stop dead, drop the basket and run tail and run. I walk past the basket and its contents, scattered across the ground. I walk up to my mother, stare her in the eyes, and ask it again, this time in a cold dead voice. “Who’s not coming back?” as I stare at her, I realise I’ve grown taller than her, I have to look down at her. Her eyes are wide open, like she’s looking at a ghost. She gives a little gasp, and runs into the house. I lean on the fence for a second, gripping the wood hard. Then I push the squeaky gate open and follow her into the house.

 

The house seems smaller then I remember, less open. Probably because I've spent so long in the woods. I breathe in to the once familiar scent of old wood, meat and musty damp, a smell that I now cannot call familiar. My time in the woods took more from me than I realised. I peer through the smoke from the fire, and see mother sitting at the head of the table, her head in her hands. I stand at the foot of the table, conscious that I don’t really have the right to stand anywhere else, that I’m no longer part of the family.

“So what was all that about, then?” even though I know perfectly well. She doesn’t reply, just lets out a strangled sob. “What is it? You’re upset that I came back? Or that I ruined your deal?” Still no reply. I lose my patience. “Fer goodness sake, wuman, pull yersel’ together!” I yell, my accent coming out strongly. She jerks her head up, her usually dead looking eyes burning.

“What’s’ wrong? What's wrong? Only the fact we thought you were dead, that’s what's wrong! And don’t you tell me you didn’t want us to think that, don’t you dare say that.” Her voice, her eyes, the mother of my youth comes alive; the mother who would only punish fairly, who didn’t make me do everything myself, who would laugh.

But that mother is weaker than before, and she soon breaks down and becomes a broken wreck again, her eyes accusing, hurting.

 

I feel myself go cold all over, the familiar icy hatred filling me. The ice creeps across my heart, my mouth, and my eyes. It controls me, but I don’t mind. It makes me say what I want to say, it’s my true inner self. My frozen mouth moves, and words spill out, cold as deepest winter. “You gave me five days.  Five days. And then you gave up on me. Is that the longest you wanted to keep thinking about me? Or did you simply forget about me?” my voice stars to rise; I'm glad there's no one else in the room. “And after five days, when you’ve given up on me, you make a deal with Them for protection. Is that how it was?”

She stands there, lost for words. She swallows, takes a deep breath. “No,” she says. “I didn’t give up on you. I thought, if you weren’t dead, you weren’t going to come back. You’ve done it enough times. You should have told us, me. But no, you run away and we have no idea where you are or if you’ll come back.”

“You should have known. You should have known. I always come back. You should have known…”

“Well, I didn’t know. All we knew was you were gone, and I needed to keep this family alive. Something you’ve not helped with. And anyway, you were already gone. You’ve been gone so long… you’ve been distant, like you don’t care anymore.” I swallow. Her words hurt, deep down, beyond the void where my soul should be. And I hate it.

“Well, I'm back now, no more problem. I’ll go back to being distant, and you can carry on pretending I don’t exist. Will that help?” The words come out bitter and sharp, like I'm about to cry.

“No. You won’t come back. You’ll come back and provide for us, but you’ll never really be back. You haven’t been here for years, Rebecya.” She’s starting to get angry, her voice rising, becoming sharper.

“But you need me. You said so yourself. You can’t survive without me…”

“NO, you said so. We didn’t survive last time because we thought you were coming back. But this time, we presumed you wouldn’t, and we are fine. And its time you face the truth. We don’t need you here anymore-” My brain freezes. I know she keeps speaking, but all I hear is a hollow ringing sound, and the words; we don’t need you here anymore repeating over and over again. The room seems to blur, my eye sight swims. A small feeling builds in my chest. It grows, and I think its anger. But it’s not. As it gets bigger and bigger, I understand it. It’s freedom. I'm free from my family, and I can do what I want. I can do anything. I feel like I do when I run, like I can go on for ever. Like there is pool of fiery energy, swirling inside of me. That’s what it is. Fiery energy. And I love it.

 

I can feel the smile start to spread across my face. The world comes back into focus. I see my mothers’ lips moving, hear her say.  “- cause trouble. And the truth is now, we don’t want you here anymore either. I'm sorry. We still love you, and if you could change, we could be a proper family again. But you're just so… difficult… I'm so sorry… I love you, I really do, but…” her voice has taken on a pleading tone; begging me to change. Then her face hardens as she gathers her courage. “The truth is now, we no longer need or want you here. It will be better for all of us if you were to leave…” her voice catches on the last word. “I love you, I'm so sorry.” and as I take in what she has said, my fiery energy changes. It turns into the feeling of ice cold hatred I'm so used to. Except it doesn’t completely change, it’s the same feeling just… different.

“No. No. You're not sorry. You’ve never been sorry for me. Me, who causes all the trouble. Me, who ruins everything. You don’t love me. You’ve never loved me. And now you expect me to change, for you. Forget it. I'm not doing anything for you. I hate you. I hate you all!” I scream the last sentence out, all my anger and hatred in those words that I have cooped up inside of me for so long.

 

As I say those words, my mother’s face fills with pain. She shakes her head, slowly at first, then faster and faster, like she's trying to shake the words out of her ears.

“No, you can’t mean that. No. Think of all those days we've had together as a family. All those happy memories. Think of them. Remember them. Remember those hand prints in the bricks… and… and…”

“See; there are no happy memories. Only bad memories. This whole house is full of them.” I start forward, walking to the fire. For each step I take forward, mother takes one back, until she’s pressed up against the wall. I reach the fire, and pull a burning piece of wood out. And then I throw it against the wooden wall of the house.

 

It doesn’t catch straight away, but inevitably, it does. As I see the flames start to spread over the walls, it drives me even madder. I kick at the fire, sending burning logs everywhere. The floor catches quickly, and soon the room is filled with smoke. I pick up another piece, and throw it up wards, into the thatched under side of the roof. The flames race over the dry straw hungrily, tearing through it. Bits of burning matter drift down, like it’s raining fire. And the whole time, mother just stands there, shaking her head. As one of the beams crashes to the ground, it shakes her out of her stupor. She darts to the door leading to the bedroom, and starts to screaming at everyone to get out. The main room feels like a furnace now, but I'm not satisfied. I want more heat, more destruction. The fiery energy is hot in my blood now; I can feel it flowing through me. The heat of the flames hits me in waves, scalding my skin and burning my lungs as I breathe in.

 I grab a burning piece of wood, shoulder my bow and arrows and run out of the door. As I run to the opposite side of the village, I light the thatched roofs of the houses as I go. Not many have timber or slate roofs, the thatch is easier to repair, and cheaper. Not that it’s doing them any good now.

 

As I run through the village, I have only thought in my mind; the gas canister. In the mines near here, lots of methane gas was discovered, and it is piped to the village where, once a month, the pipes are opened and it goes along to further down the valley. It’s situated near the most densely housed part of the village, which will help me tremendously.

As I charge though the village square and catch sight of the canister, I realise I have no way of exploding it while I'm anywhere near it. I suddenly remember the pipes that were constructed to carry the gas to the canister; they snake through the village, one even goes past the arena. As I pass the black smiths, I screech to a halt, and grab a heavy axe. I then start searching for the nearest pipe.

 

I soon find one, squeezing between two houses. I lift the axe, and bring it down sharply on the pipe. The sound of metal on metal rings through the air, and I hear the people in the house stir. I chop at it twice more, and then start smelling gas. I quickly extinguish the burning branch I still hold, and carry on finding more pipes.

 

After about ten minutes, by which time the half of the village I torched is burning nicely, I've broken lots of the pipes and am making my way to the arena. The pipe here is sometimes connected to a power supply, and used to power some type of music player. I turn the valve easily, and hear the gas whistle out the other end. I turn it off again, and rummage around for something to start a fire. I don’t find any matches, but I do find a huge box of fireworks. I drag the box along and lay them along the pipe as quickly as I can. As I pass a house, a shadow moves. I freeze and then relax; it’s Mira, an Uncut who’s always up for anything.

“Mira” I hiss into the darkness. The shadow moves, and a torch is switched on. The beam catches me full in the face, and I slap my hand over my eyes.

“Sorry,” she says, and moves the beam away from me. As my open my eyes, I see she must’ve been having some kind of party, because there are lots of Uncuts hanging around behind her. I don’t waste time explaining.

“Take these, and lay them along the gas pipe lines, and then get away as fast as you can. Split up, and don’t take longer than ten minutes. When you're done, run as fast as you can for the woods, and wait t until it’s over. I drop the box of fireworks and melt into the shadows, ignore the confused whispers.

When I get back to the arena, I just stand there for a moment. It doesn’t seem right that the arena is quiet; it’s normally buzzing. I start searching for something to create a spark again. Under a bar stool, I find a blue lighter with a silver plated pattern on the sides. I flick the switch, and a little yellow flame appears for a second, and then disappears; I don’t want to blow myself up. Thinking of that, I realise I don’t know how I'm going to lit the gas without, well, blowing myself up. I look around and my eyes rest on the bar again. I walk over and go around the other side. There are lots of bottles and optics under the counter. I look for one that has a high concentration of alcohol. I find one that’s basically pure alcohol, designed to be watered down to the customers taste. I rip the optic out of its holder, and press the button, making sure it works. A stream of the clear liquid trickles out, splashing onto the floor. I lug the heavy metal canister over to the pipe, and start back, making a sure a good thick trail of alcohol is left. I keeping going until the optic is empty; I then throw it as far away as I can. I go back to the pipe, and consider my next problem; how to get the trail of alcohol into the pipe. I don’t even bother trying to bend the pipe down, it’s made of iron, and is strong enough to hold several peoples’ weight. Instead, I unravel one of the three spare bow strings from my bow, and dunk it in the puddle of alcohol, and then slide the end into the pipe, leaving enough hanging out so the end touches the alcohol on the ground.

 

The fiery energy is still burning deep inside me. It craves destruction, and, somewhere inside me, I know I shouldn’t do this, that people will get hurt. But I don’t care. The          fiery energy makes me fearless; emotionless. Blank, empty. A void. And I love it.

 

As I turn to walk to the end of the trail and set it alight, the fiery energy burns harder, forcing me to turn and walk back to the bar. Without really knowing what I'm doing, I drag all the alcohol out and pile it in the arena, on the alcohol trail. I open all the lids, and pour the stuff everywhere.

As I throw the last empty canister away, I realise I've probably used my ten minutes up, unless the world isn’t really moving as fast as I think it is. I run back to the end of the trail, flick the lighter, and, at arm’s length, press the flame into the alcohol.

 

Nothing happens.  And then the flame blossoms, swells. Starts down the trail. I'm standing up to go, maybe to watch what happens from a tree, when it hits me. Something hard. Heavy. Wrapping itself around me. Pulling me to the ground. Landing on top of me. Not trapping me though. I roll to the side and fling it, or, should I say, the person, away from me. They land on the ground, hard. I hear the breath jolt from them. Hear them swear. Hear the sound of a knife being pulled out, feel the heat of the flaming trail, spreading slowly, growing ever closer to the pipe. I toss my bow and arrows off the side, not wanting to break them.

My attacker lunges at me. I duck right. They step to their left, putting my back to the trail. I feel the heat on my left, getting closer and closer. At the last second, I jump backwards over the trail. It catches light just as my feet touch the ground.

At last, I can get a look at my attacker. The flames play strange shadows across their face, but I know who it is. My heart stops with shock.

“Faryne?” I whisper.

 

Time seems to stop dead. Everything slows down. My heart, my breathing, her movements, the knife she's drawing back to throw, everything except the flames… the knife. I duck, and the blade whizzes past, thudding into the ground beside me. Then she's leaping through the flames, hands out stretched, reaching for my throat.

I step to the left, grab her hands and throw her to the ground. Pin her down.

“Faryne, it’s me. Firecat. Calm down. It’s only me…” I get off her. Step back. Wait for her to make the connection. Feel the heat of the fire; see the flaming snake of flames stretching to the pipe. Look at Faryne.

“I know it’s you! Who else would be crazy enough to try and blow the whole village up! I heard you, only like ten minutes ago, breaking the pipe. I don’t care what your reasons are; I’m going to stop you! You’re not thinking straight. You're always like this after a row with your family. I don’t care what you want! You’ve always been dangerous. Now you’ve gone too far. Firecat, listen to me, you're going to kill innocent people!” she's screaming at me, but I don’t care. The fiery energy is running hot in my blood, surging through me. Mixed with the adrenaline from the now-inevitable fight, it’s a dangerous combination. Maybe Faryne is right, maybe I am going too far. But it’s not just our house that was full of bad memories, it’s this whole village. And I don’t care. I'm beyond caring. I am soulless, and have nothing to lose.

 

I start to walk away. “Well,” I say, “there's nothing you can do about it anymore.” I watch Faryne as the fury flashes across her face. Then she turns, and runs to a part of the trail that hasn’t been burned yet. Then she scuffs her feet about in the alcohol, spreading it about, destroying the trail. I smile and draw the lighter out of my pocket. Her smile falters. I flick the switch so the flame stays on. I lift my arm to throw it in to the alcohol, when the weight of her body hits me again. She sends me crashing to the ground. I hold the lighter above my head, away from us. She scrabbles about, trying to snatch the lighter, trying to turn it off.

 

 We tussle on the ground, rolling about, getting closer to the flames with each roll. Somehow, we both manage to get to our feet, and stand facing each other, panting.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Faryne, please, just get out the way,” I say. She shakes her head adamantly.

“No. I won’t let you. I’d rather die than let you do this. You’re going to kill everyone.” She lunges at me again, her hands reaching for my throat again. I don’t dodge in time, and her fingers close around my windpipe. I cough, trying to wriggle out of her grip. She doesn’t loosen her hands, so I grab at her throat too, squeezing it with one hand, scratching at her face with the other. The lighter lies on the ground somewhere, dropped in the confusion.

“You're going to kill everyone, Firecat. Just stop and think about it. You'll regret it in the morning. Please, just listen to me. Please, Firecat. Just listen!!!” she pleads with me. I manage to get myself out of her death grip, and at her stomach, sending her flying. She lands hard, face down. I pick the lighter up, and throw it towards to the puddle of alcohol from all the bottles and optics. It misses, and the trail doesn’t catch. Faryne lifts her face out of the dirt. There is a big gash across one cheek, dripping blood onto the ground. She runs at me, and I kick at her again. She lands in the puddle of alcohol, soaking her clothes. A few drips splash out wards. One lands on my face, where a tear would normally run. Faryne clambers to her feet, and stares at me, with a look in her eyes like everything she's ever known has ended. Her eyes fill with tears, spilling down her face, in to the cut, mixing with the blood. The sight of her crying almost breaks me. I've hurt her. It my fault she's crying. I've hurt her, and now I feel guilty. I must love her too much. So I do the only thing I can think of.

 

As she runs at me again, screaming through her tears, “Firecat, you're going to kill them all!” I stand still. Her face looms into my vision, her arms reaching out to choke me again. I raise my arm. And punch her squarely in the chest.

She flies backwards, crashing to the ground. Beside the lighter. Her clothes brush the flame. And then it catches.

 

The yellow flames race up over her clothes with astonishing speed, consuming her, devouring her. I feel like I should look away, but I don’t. It’s my fault this has happened. I became friends with her, and she's suffered for it. And now I'm letting her go. She even said she’d rather die than let the village be blown up.

 

She doesn’t want to go, though. She bats at her clothes. Screams at the top of her lungs. She runs backwards. Trips, falls. Still bats at the flames. Stares around wildly. Sees me. yells at me, her voice cracking with the strain. “Firecat!!! Help! Make it stop, oh, please, make it stop. Please, help me. Firecat; Firecat. Help me, please!” she starts sobbing, beating uselessly at the flames. She gets to her feet, starts going backwards again. A breeze gets up, fanning the flames higher. It carries the smell of burnt flesh over, a sickly sweet scent. I make eye contact with her. Her face is illuminated strangely by the flames. Her eyes seem like huge dark pools, and, strangely, is what sticks in my mind. Her accusing eyes, filled with agony.

“Firecat, Firecat, please, help. Firecat! Firecat! REBECYA!” as she screams my real name, something inside me snaps for a second. I realise what I've done to her, my best friend. And then the break is gone. Because I remember the last time someone said that name in the arena. Detlan, saying the death rite.

“Don’t call me that” I say, even though she probably can’t hear me. But she goes quiet, so maybe she can. “Rebecya is dead now. She doesn’t exist. I'm no one. I'm soulless.” Her face, shadowed by the flames all around her, fills with despair, as she realises her last hope is gone.

“No. Please, no. Help me.” Her hair catches fire, the alcohol on her clothes finally all burnt out. Her face is obscured.

 She stumbles blindly. Right into the puddle of alcohol.

 

The ground erupts into flame. Her heart wrenching scream is abruptly cut off. There's a horrible sizzling sound. A horrible smell. And then I turn away as my best friend burns to death.

 

I collect my bow and arrow; climb out of the arena. I feel numb. The fiery energy is gone. Drained away. At the top of the slope, I turn and look back. Just in time to see the flames travel along the trail, and into the gas pipe. There is a deafening silence. And then the pipe explodes.

Bright light. A muffled boom.

 

 As the fire travels through the pipe, the pipe explodes. A continuous booming sound echoes in my ears. The heat fries my skin, like a piece of leather being left in the sun.

The first firework is lit; it shoots up into the sky in a trail of pink sparks. The rocket explodes, green sparks everywhere. And another. Another, an orange, a red, a blue, a gold. Every colour. Illuminating the village as it burns.

I can follow the progress of the fire in the pipe, see it branch off to the different places the gas comes from. In time, the fire will reach the sources, and they will go up in smoke too. The fire in the main pipe is nearing the centre of the village though, and I suddenly realise I need to go, leave before I change my mind… But I want to stay, see the complete destruction of the village.

And I get my wish, because then the fire reaches the canister.

A flash of white light. The loudest sound I have ever heard. My ear drums rattle, my head throbs. An orange and red ball of fire shoots upwards. Expanding, growing. Coming closer. Heat searing me. closer. Hotter. Too close; too hot. I flatten myself to the ground, and the fire roars over me. I scramble to my feet. Look at the village. The worst of the heat seems to have gone upwards, but it doesn’t matter. The fire continues to go along the pipes. The clouds of gas that escapes from the breaks I made explode to, mini explosions I see but can’t hear, because I seem to be deaf from the explosion. It makes it more beautiful, seeing the destruction, but not hearing the screams of the terrified people, burning in their homes…

 

I turn, and walk into the ravaged forest. My hearing starts to come back, a ringing sound, that then fades. As I skirt a blackened thicket, I hear a sound. Voices. Girls. I step around the boulder blocking my view, and see a very bedraggled, slightly scorched group of Uncuts.

 

They stop speaking as they see. Me. Narrow their eyes. Stare, or, should I say, glare, at me. One steps forwards. I can’t really recall her name.

“What?” I ask. Her eyes open wide and she opens her mouth.

“What? Do you mean you aren’t concerned that you just blew the entire village up?” I shrug.

“Well, that’s kinda what I set out to do…” They start shouting at me, a babble of loud voices I can’t distinguish between.

“What? You meant to blow the whole place sky high?!”

“You really are crazy, aren’t you?”

“Why did you do that? Now we have nowhere to go. What are we gonna do?”

I shout over them. “Just shut up!” They stop speaking, probably out of habit.

“Yes, I meant to blow the place up. No, I'm not crazy, just angry. And I don’t care what you do, it’s not my problem.”

“What do you mean, not your problem? ‘Course it’s your problem, you’ve gotta live here. Or are you gonna make a runner? Go off and leave us to clear up your mess.” That’s Mira speaking. She has her I'm not at all impressed look on. I shrug.

“Look, I don’t really care. So what, I blew the place up. Yeah, I am gonna make a runner. I've been meaning to for ages. Rebuild you houses, look after your families…” I stop when I say that, so many of the girls look ready to kill me.

“You don’t get it, do you? Our families are dead! You killed them as they slept. They were sleeping, and you exploded the houses they were in. Doesn’t that bother you at all?” My patience snaps.

“Oh, shut up, you sound like Faryne did when she tried to stop me.” I bite my lip, wishing I could take that back. They crowd around me, asking loads of questions, like why didn’t you listen to her? Where is she? Did she go back to the village? Where is she? Did you kill her too? Did you stand and do nothing while she burned? Did you? Is that what happened? Suddenly, the fiery energy is rising. It gives me strength. I thrust my hands out, and those nearest me tumble to the ground, taking others with them.

 

“Shut up! Go away! I don’t care that your families are dead. Mine have been that way to me for all my life. I. Don’t. Care. If you're that concerned for them, go look for them, check on them. The village is still burning, not many of the houses are gone. Go. Get away from me.” They start backing off, looking scared. “And yes, I did. Yes, I did stand there as she burned. While she screamed for it to stop. While she burned. Get too close to the fire, you burn. She was too close to me, and she paid for it. Now she's free of me. Free.” They stand there, aghast. Then they start to disperse, one by one. Until there's only one left. Layran; Faryne’s sister.

She takes a step forward.

“You better make a runner for it. We don’t want you here anymore. You dare come back, I swear I will kill you.” and then she turns heal and leaves.

She leaves too soon to see the one tear that slips out my eye and runs down my cheek. Too soon to see me turn and run away from the only home I’ve ever known

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